Former President Jimmy Carter and Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden both are calling for the closure of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. Let’s hope someone in the Bush Administration is listening.
Guantanamo’s continued existence as an offshore U.S. prison camp perpetuates a practice totally inconsistent with American concepts of justice: unlimited detention without charge or trial.
The administration likes Guantanamo because for the most part it is out of sight and jurisdiction of American civilian justice, a place where almost anything goes in the name of the war against terrorism.
Yet no one has to buy into the “gulag” language of Amnesty International to believe that the United States would not want to see its own citizens so treated.
“Rendition” – the U.S. tactic of handing prisoners over to a third country that practices unhindered torture to extract information – should not be an option for the Guantanamo detainees. This is virtually the same as having prisoners tortured by Americans.
Whatever would transpire with the closure of Guantanamo, it is likely that the new disposition of prisoners would correspond more closely to standards of U.S. justice. Guantanamo is a growing embarrassment to the United States and its professed championing of freedom overseas.
The best reason to close the prison? It has become evident, including to Americans, that what our leaders are saying about freedom is hypocrisy, given U.S. practices not only at Guantanamo but also at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Bagram in Afghanistan.
If the United States needed a base for operations in the Caribbean, then Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands could provide that. It is worth examining the military’s entire presence on the tip of Cuba and closing the base altogether.
In the meantime, the United States should save some money, clean up its human rights act, and repair its relations with the people of Latin America in one step: Close the Guantanamo prison now.